Congress expels member who appeared as lawyer for chopper scam dalal

New Delhi, Dec 5:  Indian Youth Congress has expelled a  member for appearing as counsel for  British national Christian Michel in a CBI court in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.

"Aljo K Joseph appeared in his personal capacity. He didn't consult Youth Congress before appearing in the case. IYC does NOT endorse such actions.IYC has removed Aljo Joseph from IYC’s Legal Dept&expelled him from the party with immediate effect," said  IYC spokesperson Amrish Ranjan Pandey,  

A controversy erupted on Wednesday after  Congress activist Aljo K Joseph appeared as a counsel for Christian Michel. BJP latched on to the controversy after which

 Joseph accepted that he was associated with the Congress but clarified that he appeared in the case in his personal and professional capacity. "I am an advocate and appeared in my personal capacity. If somebody asks me to appear on his behalf, I have discharged only my duty as a lawyer. This has nothing to do with Congress. My relationship with Congress is separate and my professional relation is separate," Joseph said.

The row started after Suresh Nakhua, Spokesperson of the BJP's Mumbai unit, tweeted that Aljo K Joseph, who appeared for the Michel, was national incharge of the legal department of Indian Youth Congress.

"Any guesses who is lawyer for Christian Michel? Mr Aljo K Joseph, National incharge, legal department, Indian Youth Congress (Youth wing of Cong led by out on bail Rahul Gandhi)," he tweeted.

Soon after, In-charge of BJP's national Information and Technology department Amit Malviya tweeted: "Meet the Congressman who is going to defend AgustaWestland 'middleman' Christian Michel... Does it get more obvious than that?."

Christian Michel James was on Wednesday remanded to five days CBI custody by a Delhi court, which rejected the agency's plea for 14 days custody.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to quiz the middleman till December 10.

"The CBI is seeking police remand of 14 days for thorough interrogation and in order to unearth the deep rooted conspiracy and the role of the other accused persons and to confront the accused with the documents.

"Keeping in view the facts and circumstances, submissions made by the parties, I deem it fit to grant five days police remand of the accused," Judge Kumar said.In its remand application, the CBI told the court that an amount of 42.27 million euros was paid by the Westland Group of Companies to the firms of Michel as "kickbacks/bribe without undertaking any work against the receipt of such amount".The agency through its lawyer said that custodial interrogation of Christian Michel was needed "to unearth the deep rooted conspiracy and to identify his accomplices including the IAF officials, bureaucrats and politicians who influenced the decisions" which made AgustaWestland eligible to participate in the bidding process and "ultimately bag it".

Special Public Prosecutor D.P. Singh told the court that James had got classified material and the agency needed to interrogate him to knowA who were the officers involved in supplying these classified documents to him.

The prosecutor also told the court that they have recovered two handwritten notes related to bribe money - including one written by James himself in which he mentions about his 5 per cent commission to fix the deal.

The prosecutor informed the court that James had entered into as many as 12 contracts with AugustaWestland through two of his firms -- Global Trade and Commerce Ltd, London, and Global Services FZE, Dubai UAE -- with Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland and Westland Helicopters UK to legitimize the illicit commission on the procurement of VVIP Helicopters by the Indian Defence Ministry.

"We need to confront him with the evidence. We have to find the money trail and the people involved," the prosecutor said.Michel's counsel Aljo K. Joseph vehemently opposed the remand application saying there was no need for police custody and that none of the documents had been produced in any international court.Michel was present at the court after he was extradited to India on Tuesday night from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A CBI team escorted him to India in a special plane.

Michel's counsel Joseph and Vishnu Sankar moved bail application assuring that he will follow every condition imposed by the court if released on bail.The defence counsel told the court that the probe agency had already seized the documents related to the case and investigation was almost complete in the case.A senior Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official, related to the probe, told IANS, "James was not questioned on Tuesday night after his arrival from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to India." After he was brought to the agency's headquarters late in the night after being extradited from Dubai, Michel complained of "tiredness", he said.

Asked about reports that Michel was non-cooperative and showing an aggressive behaviour during questioning, the official replied: "There is no chance of aggressiveness or non-cooperation from Michel on Tuesday night and on Wednesday noon as he has not been intensively questioned by us."

"We only had an interactive session," he said, adding, "what he says will be analysed during these five days of the police custody that we have got from the court."

The official also claimed that the agency has enough evidence against Michel and he would be confronted with the other accused.

He also said that AgustaWestland money amounting to 37 million Euros (approximately Rs 300 crore) was transferred to two bank accounts based in Dubai. "We want to know where and to whom the money went from here," he said.Michel is one of the three accused being probed in the case by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the VVIP chopper scam.In January, the ED had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing James. Both the ED and the CBI had filed chargesheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused.

Last year, a Red Corner notice was issued against Michel by the Interpol on a request by the CBI. RCNs were also issued against two Italians involved in the scam -- Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke.

According to Indian investigative agencies, Michel had received at least Rs 235 crore for ensuring that the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013.

In its chargesheet, the CBI had named former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie, then IAF Vice Chief J.S. Gujral and advocate Gautam Khaitan as the four Indians involved in the scam.

The chargesheet mentioned Khaitan as the "brain" behind the deal.

Others named in the chargesheet include Giuseppe Orsi, the former chief of Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of AgustaWestland, apart from middlemen James, Haschke and Gerosa.

On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.

The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that Tyagi and the other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract.

News24 Bureau/ IANS

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